So, despite my ponderings last time out, I know now for sure that I have never been to Bone Daddies. I’d never queue for ramen. Yet, here I was, in a line running along Peter Street in Soho at around 4pm on a Saturday afternoon. The queue at Bone Daddies is perpetual, and well-known. If it was this bad now, imagine what it would be like around 7pm soon after the chain opened, in 2012. I’d have remembered all of this. But again, here I am, queuing for ramen, and I’m scared.
It had been a very Japanese-y day. We’d gone to see the fantastic “Japan: Courts and Culture” exhibition at Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace. After spending a good hour touring the gifts that Japan had offered the United Kingdom, ostensibly in preparation for the vacation awaiting us in October, we headed westwards in theme (but eastwards in London) to visit Scandikitchen so the European could stock up on Gräddost, chips, liquorice, and pâté. Having eaten only a ham and egg sandwich four hours prior, we were soon hungry. The European suggested Bone Daddies. I was beaten down. We’ve been talking about this place for so long – that she swears by it, that I may or may not have been – that for lack of a better place to dine (except for say, the other thousand or so restaurants in the West End) – it seemed like the time was now.
In fairness, Bone Daddies turns tables like lighting, and the line evaporated quickly. We were seated at the end of long table next to a wall that was set up to accommodate four pairs squeezed together. Luckily, the host had common sense and the middle two pairs of seats remained vacant throughout our one hour there.
Despite the brevity of our visit, it took a long time to order. This was disappointing as the restaurant is not exactly a looker. Aside from a colourful wall plastered with Japanese pop culture posters, you could be sat in any café or canteen anywhere on earth. The dining room is grubby, chaotic, and loud. The waiter couldn’t come soon enough. We settled down with pint-sized cans of Hiro Session IPA, brewed especially for the restaurant. It was light, with hint of caramel and citrus. Very moreish and in vogue with the feast we were about to order, it was a great beer to choose.
Bone Daddies’ signature dish is ramen made with broth infused with bone marrow from either chicken or pork. Variations of this are the only main courses on offer (though there are marrow-free broths too), and for £eleven you can get a couple of bao buns to share (we took two of the fried chicken ones). There are also various other nibbles, like pig bones, Padrón peppers, and chicken wings. Amazingly, there are also ‘dirty’ tater tots, made with cheese sauce, barbeque spice, Korean mayonnaise, and cock scratchings (don’t say anything). I was ordered not to ask for the tots as the European felt that two bao buns was already too much, given the richness of the ramen we would be slurping down.
So for the main event I tried the T22, a chicken marrow broth with pulled chicken, cock scratchings (don’t say anything again), shiitake mushrooms, veg, and a marinated boiled Clarence Court egg, served perfectly runny. The European had the Pork Pork Chilli, made with a pork marrow broth, pork belly, pork mince, bamboo, another lovely egg and a ferocious-looking big red chilli as a garnish.
I’ll say one thing immediately: Bone Daddies has BAO beaten for buns. They were not only bigger (and therefore better by default), but they tasted incredible: perfectly cooked and spiced, the crunchy chicken complimented by a balanced yet threatening spicy mayonnaise that had me barking for more (I was allowed to finish the European’s as she was saving room for noodles).
And oh, the noodles! Well, the broth! The bone marrow makes it achingly rich, flavourful, and eerily silky. For the first time in my ramen-eating experience, I was living for the broth, favouring a slurp of it over my usual raman-y highlights of a mouthful of protein or noodles. This is not to say that the rest of the dish wasn’t great. Flavour explosions and deep earthy sensations bounced around my mouth as I awoke to what ramen could possibly offer. The European was silent; I think she was enjoying herself too.
As she warned me when we were ordering, the ramen is indeed filling; we barely finished what we had. I did secretly want a Bone Daddies takeaway tub and bag, sported by many departing, happy-looking patrons whose eye were bigger than their stomachs. There was only soft serve for pudding, so we skipped this (we had Little Moons at home in the freezer), paid a very reasonable £sixty, and waddled home.
So, there we have it. I have officially eaten at Bone Daddies. I loved it. That’s a first for me and ramen. Another first was that I’d never queued for ramen before. I’d do so again, though, in a flash.
Visited on 11th February 2023.
Buns, ramen, and a couple of beers came to around £sixty, including service.